Friday, April 4, 2008

Parshas Tazria - "The Beauty At The Bottom Of The Barrel"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: The Torah describes the three kinds of Tzaraas as SEIS, SAPACHAS, AND BAHERES. (13:2) How do these words relate to this spiritual disease?

Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit"a teaches that these words allude to three types of people who speak lashon hara, the sin which leads to tzaraas. SEIS is related to the Hebrew word for UPLIFT. This refers to people who put down others in order to increase their own importance and lift themselves up. SAPACHAS is related to the Hebrew word for ATTACH. This refers to people who speak lashon hara, not as part of their nature but simply as a result of attaching themselves to the wrong people who do speak this way. BAHERES is related to the Hebrew word for "clear." This refers to people who think they have complete clarity and know everything. This gives them the right to speak about others and their flaws. Regardless of the reason for the person speaking lashon hara, it still makes the speaker impure.*

* From R' Dov Lipman Shlit"a

There is a novelty in Halacha that is recognized in this week's Parsha when discussing the topic of the Metzorah (loosely translated as a leper, I believe that it has been proven that this is not the proper translation anymore). The Torah states that after a Metzorah has been afflicted with Tzaraas on every inch of his/her body, instead of being considered tainted, they are considered to be entirely pure! This seems to be nothing short of a phenomenon that only makes sense within the context of Judaism. How can something so tainted really be pure?!

While discussing this topic Rav Shimon Schwab Zt"l says in his Sefer Me'in Beis HaShoeva, that Tumah does not have a life of its own, it 'survives' off of purity. If there is no purity to feed off of the impurity can no longer live. In this manner the person whose body has been totally taken over by the tzaraas is considered to be pure. Throughout the time that his/her affliction was growing it could only survive because of its ability to continue in growth. At the point when it has used up all of its potential and it can no longer grow, the person is pure.

It is also said, in the (Gemara Sanhedrin 97a) "R' Yitzchak says, 'The Messiah will come only when the entire kingdom has switched to heretics'. We can properly explain the Gemara in Sanhedrin that speaks about the kingdom full of heretics bringing the Messiah. If the town has any signs of good, there is still room for negative influence, thus stunting the growth of anything positive. On the opposite side of the coin, if the town is full of heretics there is no more room for evil to grow thus sparking the beginning of the Geula.

This same idea was realized during the time of the Meraglim. (Bamidbar 13:27) Before the spies said anything negative about the land of Israel they introduced their observations with an inkling of truth about the land. With this they were believed by the people. Without this inkling of truth they had no credibility.

It sometimes seems that we have reached the bottom of the barrel and that we can no longer go any deeper in sin. We feel that we are forever abandoned by our creator. It is at this point however, when we are most susceptible to do Teshuva and to be the purest that we have ever been.*

*Imrei Baruch by R' Baruch Simon Shlit"a



Anonymous said...

Actually, as recovering addicts will understand, the one who has Tzaraas all over his body is the person who has come to believe that their addiction is forever more powerful than they are and Ilmolei ozro aino yochol lo, as the Gemorah states (w/o Hashem's direct and loving help, the struggle would overcome him). They have no ability at all to win the fight and their success comes completely from Hashem. They will make it because they are truly dependent upon Hashem. They are thus "Tahor" even though they are covered with Tzaraas! This concept as it relates to the general concept of Teshuvah is what Dovid Hamelech was referring to when he said to Hashem, "Forgive me and take me back for I am covered with inituity. From my head to my feet there is no spot w/o damage". How can we understand this as an advantage for Dovid to say? "I am so bad off, I have so much wrong with me. Therefore take me back!" Not exactly tooting one's horn, is it? But this is the idea he may be alluding to, as described above. It is the relationship he has (even out of necessity) with Hashem that is the selling point, as it were. I need You and I want You! What Parent will say no to a child who sees his weakness and dependence and cries out? See the next Pasuk for the take home message here: It is the next pasuk that shows what happens later on. After a few months or years of sobriety it is quite normal to start to feel like everybody else, a real forget the source and their humble place in reality. They see a "spot of flesh" and this is when the posuk states they are Tamei, right away. We need to keep the first step ("Powerless over XYZ") in our lives ALL the time and forever in order to remain sober to the end. To realize that on some level, though we may be doing great and free of the addiction for years and decades, we are always addicts and need Hashem all the time. Normal people may not need this perspective at all, but my experience tells me that addicts do. It (addiction and the recovery from it) is thus a guarantee to remain close to Hashem in an intimate and real way. We can't afford anything less, no matter how high we reach.

Ibn Mordechai said...

Thank you very much for eruditely analyzing the psych of the Metzorah (and for that matter, the rest of mankind).

In Pirkei Avos 6:3 it says, "If you learn one chapter, or one sentence, or one word of Torah from your friend you must show him honor...".

Thank you very much for making this pasuk more meaningful for me as well as for the readership of this Torah forum. I welcome your comments and I look forward to hearing many more from you.

You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!